“The world is now recognizing a basic truth of our times: We need to buy insurance for the planet,” Ban said. “We must all be ambitious as we look to conclude on our agreement at the climate change conference in Paris in December.”
“There’s a strong moral dimension to this effort,” he said. “Today I’d like to announce that I will visit the Vatican this month and meet with his Holiness to discuss common concern, including the encyclical on the environment that he plans to issue in the month ahead.
“I think this should be first time for any secretary general to be invited by the pope,” he added.
Also in attendance at the April 28 meeting will be the pope’s top representative on the environment Cardinal Peter Turkson and American economist Jeffrey Sachs, the Associated Press reported.
The pope will deliver what is considered the first major encyclical of his papacy this summer on the issue of global warming and the environment.
Although Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI took stances in favor of the environment, Pope Francis will be the first to address climate change in “a significant way,” the AP reported.
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences said the purpose of the workshop is to “raise awareness and build a consensus that the values of sustainable development cohere with values of the leading religious traditions, with a special focus on the most vulnerable; to elevate the debate on the moral dimensions of protecting the environment in advance of the papal encyclical; and to help build a global movement across all religions for sustainable development and climate change throughout 2015 and beyond.”
In turn, Ban has invited the pope and other world leaders to the UN for a special summit meeting in September.
“For my part, I have invited Pope Francis to the United Nations and also President Obama and all the leaders of the world to a special summit meeting in September at the United Nations, asking them to adopt this visionary and ambitious sustainable development agenda, and I’m sure that all the leaders will come and declare their visions to the world as a way of celebrating 70th anniversary of the United Nations,” he added.
“There are still some people who do not want to acknowledge climate change, but there is climate change,” Ban said. “By any standard,” the scientific evidence “clearly” shows that “climate change is happening,” and “it’s approaching much, much faster” than expected.
“Tackling climate change is an urgent part of the picture. This climate change is a defining issue of our times,” he said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are the first generation that can end poverty and we are the last generation to address climate change. This is a fact, and we must act now,” he added.
The secretary general’s speech at the National Press Club comes two days before the Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., an event to mark the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. Musical guests at the event include: Mary J. Blige, No Doubt, Fall Out Boy, Usher, Train, and Common. It will be hosted by Will.i.Am and Soledad O’Brien.
Saturday’s event was timed to coincide with the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Earth Day takes place on April 22. The first Earth Day took place on April 22 in 1970, according to the Earth Day Network.